As I was peering out the window of the rickety old Taurus I inherited from my parents I saw a shadow circling in the air. With my poor vision it was hard to make out what exactly it was and came to the conclusion that it must be some sort of carrion eating scavenger. Its movement in the sky was nothing less than graceful. Wondering at the fowl creature’s beauty several thoughts crossed my mind. Thoughts of ravaged carcasses, thoughts of rotting flesh being torn from the bone, thoughts of a rickety old bird with sunken red eyes and an 80 year old man’s scalp huddled in shadow, reaping death’s reward.
What is it about vultures that invoke such thoughts as ‘reaping death’s reward?’ I think back to Disney’s Snow White, toward the end of the movie and the portrayal of vultures. There is nothing endearing about these birds. They are framed in greed and lust for death. As the Queen falls to her death we are comforted by the justice of fowl loathsome animals descending to devour a fowl and loathsome being. And even from the first shot of the vultures’ piercing eyes, crooked necks and stormy sky debut we are begged to have an unease about them.
I like Disney’s portrayal of vultures in the Jungle Book much better. Perhaps they are not quite endearing characters but they have an attractive appeal that is lost on such- dare I say- noble birds. And I will not go as far as to say that they will help you tie a burning branch to the tail of a lion, but they certainly represent something more honest about the ideal of a vulture.
As I drove on down the highway I wondered if there really was something dead nearby. I wondered how it might have died. I wondered if it was something that had to happen. I wondered where my exit was.